Additional Thoughts: Returning to Flying Witch

I decided to sit down and give Flying Witch another chance.

I reviewed this show a decent while back, but I wrote the review after I had dropped it halfway through (after episode 6). In said review, I did float the idea of coming back to finish the show, but once I posted the review to the website, I was content to just move on to something else.

Rereading that review a few weeks ago, I was a bit surprised with how harsh I was towards this show, especially given this is some cheerful, colorful slice of life show. Does something with that sort of vibe really deserve that much… criticism? I guess that’s what spurned me to at least try it a bit more, and well, here we are!

I went back and rewatched episode 6 to get myself back into the show, and then went from there, buuuuut I decided to drop it again after finishing episode 9. While I could sit here and finish the rest of the series, I think I’m satisfied for now and ready to watch other stuff instead. Also, I’ve decided to do this more freeform discussion piece, rather than making an updated formal review.

For this piece, I’ll be sharing my experiences watching episodes 7, 8, and 9 (so spoilers ahead, for anyone who actually cares), and comparing that against what I had written down as my thoughts in the previous review. Soooooo let’s begin!

An Updated Look

Flying Witch, as a mini refresher, is about the witch (in training) Makoto, who decided to move out to her relatives’ house in a more remote, sleepy town. While here, Makoto explores various aspects of the world of magic and she often brings along her cousins Chinatsu and Kei for the ride as well (and in episode 6, young Chinatsu decided that she wants to become a witch too).

Each episode features Makoto (usually with cousins in tow) going to a new place or discovering a new thing. A relatively minor complication occurs, but it gets sorted out in no time and the episode usually ends with the everyone making it back home and doing a bit of chit-chat.

I’d say, however, that there are 3 core issues with this show (two of which I’ve touched on in my review): 1. the joke delivery is just terrible; 2. the characters are all the same, essentially; and 3. the pacing is sooooo slow – even for a slice of life show.

These 3 issues reared their heads in full force in episode 8, which is what ultimately prompted me to drop the show again. Episode 8 involves Makoto, Chinatsu, and Kei all hanging out in a magical café and interacting with the other magical beings or creatures that come in to frequent the café. Not particularly bad as an idea, but the execution was just… weird.

A strange issue with this episode and the one prior (where they discovered the cafe in question) was that the main cast seemingly forgot about the existence of personal boundaries and comfort levels. They came across a ghost that hid herself because she was shy, but rather than respecting that, Makoto casted a spell to make her visible, just because Chinatsu wanted to see what a ghost looks like. Episode 8 had other patrons arriving at the cafe, and Chinatsu would just walk up to them, start throwing a barrage of questions, and touching them. Even when she started asking for permission (like touching a person), she asked the cafe wait staff for permission, rather than the person she was touching. It was just kind of uncomfortable to watch, as someone who tries to be a bit more respectful of others’ preferences.

However, ultimately no one took issue with any of Chinatsu’s or Makoto’s actions; the ghost got a bit flustered, but that was it.

Really, when I’m thinking about all of the characters in this show, everyone is always super friendly, pretty kind, and rather easy-going; no one has any form of attitude or is overbearing or anything. I mentioned in my review that “I feel almost all of the characters in Flying Witch would react the same way no matter what situation you threw at them”, and that’s kind of the same conclusion I came to again. Each character does have a slight quirk or difference, like Chinatsu being notably bubbly, Kei being a bit more detached, Akane being a bit more casual and lax, et cetera. But it does feel like you’re just watching carbon copies of the same character interact with themselves. (Actually, Kei being detached is maybe an understatement – I think the show just kind of sweeps him under the rug sometimes, like they somehow don’t know what to do with him. He’s present in most scenes but relatively rarely interacts or says anything.)

I know that this is meant to be a very easy-going slice of life show, and in comparison to shows like GJ Club, Arakawa Under the Bridge, or Daily Lives of High School Boys, it is nice to have a show where someone isn’t always the butt of a joke. It doesn’t seem too often that I find an anime where everyone is just generally nice to each other. But making all the characters carbon copies of each other to the point where most everyone feels the same way about everything isn’t the best way to go about it; instead, you’re just kind of left with everything feeling bland and flat. You can have shows with a laid-back attitude, where everyone has differing personalities but still get along well, as shown in New Game!, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, or Non Non Biyori (that last one might be debatable).

Also in episode 8, we see two ladybugs fly in and hang out in the café (like, actual ladybugs). One of the waitstaff mentions “you know a ladybug brings good fortune if it lands on you”, clearly meaning to be the setup of a joke. But then rather than cutting to the punchline of seeing Makoto and Chinatsu running around, trying desperately to get a ladybug to land on their finger… there’s all this build up instead that takes the air out of the joke before actually showing that punchline. Scenes like Makoto and Chinatsu prepping to hop out of their spots, multiple zoom-in shots on the ladybugs, and then a shot of Makoto and Chinatsu just standing in place with their fingers in the air and grunting… all this stuff just took what could’ve been a funny scene or moment and just turned it into… meh.

A lot of other jokes in this show are also just set up weirdly or are just weird in general.

But a big part of the issue with the jokes, and kind of a lot in this show, is the slow pacing. Slice of life shows are known for taking a more leisurely pace, focusing on nice moments with the cast and breathing in the scene. But slow pacing is also pretty bad for comedy, so we’ll see other slice of life shows with snappier moments or editing to deliver a punchline or keep a joke rolling. Flying Witch… doesn’t do that. A lot of its potentially funniest jokes tend to become unfunny because it takes too long to actually get to somewhere. This was an issue in the latter half of episode 6 as well, where I dropped the show last time.

Slow pacing is present throughout the entirety of episodes 7 and 8, though, not just during the jokes. It feels like it takes this anime a decent while longer to get through a scene than it would in a different slice of life show. Maybe part of it is I’m more used now to how other genres are paced in comparison, but thinking of shows like all that I had mentioned a handful of paragraphs ago, I feel like these shows wouldn’t go this slowly either. I recall multiple moments while watching Flying Witch where I was like “soooo… where is this going?” and waiting for the show to do something. These two episodes featuring the cast searching for, arriving at, eating at, and interacting with others in the café… this would’ve been just a single episode in most other slice of life shows. There’s not enough going on in the cafe to warrant this single trip to it taking multiple episodes. Luckily, episode 9 was a bit better in this regard, although it still felt a bit sluggish at points.

I didn’t take much of an issue with the pacing in my original review, although I did comment that it could’ve been a bit tighter. And to be fair, it’s not like the pacing is really that horrendous. But I don’t know, it got to me more this time than it did before… maybe it’s just me.

One thing that did bother me in my original review though, was Chinatsu. But during my time coming back and revisiting this show, I didn’t take as much offense to her this time around. Perhaps it was because I didn’t start back with episode 1, where she was super shy in comparison to how bubbly she is in future episodes, but yeah, Chinatsu is fine… beyond her being really rude in episode 8. The bubbliness and lack of personal boundaries is a bit much, but I’d chalk that up to her being a whimsical child still learning rather than her being a terrible character.

I also lamented in my review about how, despite Makoto being a witch in training and the show ultimately being about exploring the world of magic that exists all around you… there wasn’t a lot of magic exploring. There wasn’t no magic exploring, but it felt paltry in comparison to how much world building and intriguing concepts we could’ve gotten. I was definitely looking more for something like Little Witch Academia or Disney’s Owl House. And to be fair, like I predicted in my review, episodes 7, 8, and 9 did start to show more magic and magical creatures beyond how much we’d get in an episode before that… but it does still feel like we were just scratching the surface with how much we could explore or get into.

Overall Thoughts

The more I think about this show, this show kind of more feels like a more natural, realistic take on a group of people hanging out… and there happens to be some magic lightly involved. In comparison to other anime (or most TV in general), nothing here ever feels played up for drama or laughs; things stay relatively calm and light-hearted. In fact, episodes don’t even really have much of a conflict at all; if there is a hurdle, it’s usually easily dismissed or overcome.

It gives more of a feeling of watching an accidentally recorded adventure of 3 normal but imaginative kids, rather than an intentionally put together show.

And for some people, that might be the type of vibe or atmosphere they want. I think I would’ve actually enjoyed this show more if I watched it in English, as it’s something I could have on in the background while I’m doing other things; the pacing is slow enough that you don’t need to keep your eyes on the screen every second. Luckily, Sentai Filmworks has indeed made an English dub (although that isn’t present on Crunchyroll). However, of course, if you’re going to be reading subtitles, you kind of need to be facing the screen for that, which kind of defeats the purpose in that sense. (And my Japanese isn’t nearly good enough to attempt watching this without subtitles.)

Overall, this show isn’t problematic. It isn’t really a bad show, and the slow pacing and general lack of conflict, again, may be something that someone else explicitly wants. I think there is a place for this kind of show; I’ve definitely watched shows where I felt there really wasn’t a reason for it to exist, and Flying Witch isn’t one of them. I’m sure others have a soft spot in their heart for this show, while acknowledging or even welcoming the “flaws” I pointed out here.

(Oh! Also, the commentary I had on the visuals, animation, music, and other stuff in the “Atmosphere” section of my old review ultimately didn’t change at all, so if you wanted to know my thoughts on those, just check back on the original review. It didn’t feel worth it to rehash the same thoughts over again.)

At the end of the day though, I find myself in roughly the same place I found myself at the end of my old review. I think the… emotion I had has faded, and coming at it again with a cooler head, I’m a bit more understanding of what’s happening here, but the problems I had the first time around are still persistent here. This just doesn’t do it for me. The lackadaisical attitude and slowly timed comedy isn’t what I want in a show. At least, not here, not now. But I gave it another shot, got a bit further, and yeah, I’m good with that. I’ll leave this show for the fans who truly appreciate it, and I’ll move on to something that’ll be more engaging to me.

Review: Flying Witch

You have a slice-of-life, you have a fantasy element, you have school kids in not-Tokyo-for-once, Japan… this seems like all the right elements in a formula for a great show. … But is it really that great?

An Introduction

We’re introduced to Makoto, a teenage girl who’s traveled all the way to picturesque Aomori, Japan to live with some relatives in a nice, traditional-looking house. This journey wasn’t for a vacation though; Makoto has some training to do! For you see, this kind-hearted, black-haired girl also has a big secret: she’s the youngest of a family of witches! Makoto isn’t a very skilled witch, though (why else would she be looking to do some training?), but she manages to impress her family and friends anyway! … If not simply because of how airheaded she is.

Speaking of family, the relatives she’s living with are her cousins Kei and Chinatsu. Kei and Makoto attend the same high school, and they both feature that easy-going personality. Chinatsu is a decent amount younger than Kei, and still contains all the whimsy and curiosity of a little kid. As well, we’re introduced to Makoto’s own sister: Akane. A witch with abilities well into the advanced levels, Akane spends most of her time traveling the world… and when she does drop by for a visit, there’s also a decent amount of alcohol and sleeping involved too.

With her family helping her along every step of the way, and optimistic about meeting new friends, seeing new places, and learning new witch abilities, Makoto is excited to see what’s next on her journey here in Aomori.

The Plot and Characters

Usually I start writing a review about halfway through a series, as my thoughts on said series begin to settle, but I don’t finish the review until about when I finish the show (in case there’s something that changes or happens in the latter half). In this case, however, I don’t see myself watching past episode 6 of this series.

I have a pretty good idea of what I’m looking at with this show, and while it isn’t bad, I certainly haven’t been getting much enjoyment out of it. A friend had recommended this show to me, saying that it seemed something right up my alley, and so I went into it with relatively high expectations (as this friend tends to like some pretty awesome shows). Honestly, if I started off Flying Witch with little to no expectation of what I’d get out of it, I may have seen myself enjoying it more. We can’t go back and do anything about it now, though.

The reason I put the review of this show up on the same day as (EDIT: I mean, a week after) my Tanaka-kun is Always Listless review, is because while watching this, I kept comparing this show back to Tanaka-kun. Both aired in the same Spring 2016 season, and set out to be a relaxed, light-hearted slice-of-life anime. However, there is definitely one I enjoyed more than the other.

Flying Witch’s humor just did not strike me in the right way. I knew where it was making its jokes, and what those jokes were, but I just didn’t find them funny. I’d even venture to say that the humor in this show just isn’t good, but honestly, it may just be that it doesn’t really work with my style. It’s very simple humor; there’s no really complex set ups or anything, and a number of the jokes are simply tossed out like nothing.

Another difficulty that probably aggravates this is the fact that I feel all of the characters have the exact same personality in my eyes. Comparing it to Tanaka-kun, GJ Club, or Nisekoi, where each character had a different and unique personality, I feel almost all of the characters in Flying Witch would react the same way no matter what situation you threw at them. The only thing that really differentiates these characters is a small list of quirks each one has, and a possibly different end goal they want to reach, but all in all, I feel they all act the same. Each of them is smiley, bubbly, and is overall super kind and easy-going. I’m not sure if I’d call these characters “fake”, but I begin to lose the feeling that these could be actual people, the further I get into this show. The only character that I felt could be somewhat human-like was Makoto’s cat, Chito.

The character I definitely disliked the most is Chinatsu. She’s supposed to be this little kid, but I feel like whoever wrote her character doesn’t totally get the mind of a little kid. Chinatsu comes off as fickle and inconsistent to me, sometimes surprisingly mature and other times resoundingly childish. She starts the first episode with a complete disdain for Makoto, but she completely flips her position by the end of the 23 minutes. She spends the second episode scared of (and sometimes kind of mean to) a magical creature that came by, so the first two episodes made me think Chinatsu is shy and easily scared of what she doesn’t know. However, every episode after that shows her being extremely cheerful, and happily getting along with all the new characters she meets. Episode 4 shows her going up to a creepy-looking fortune teller she’s never seen before, and just striking up a full conversation with her, with no signs of shyness at all.

The pacing isn’t all that bad in this series, although it could also be tightened in a few areas. There’s points where I felt it focused on one scene for a bit too long, and had some dead air moments that definitely didn’t help.

Overall, I can’t say I hate this show, though. It’s probably not going to be one I’ll finish (or if I do, it will be a struggle, although I’ve previously pushed myself through shows that were a struggle too), but I’m sure there are others out there that got a lot more out of this series than I did. I did laugh at a couple points (more than I have at a few other comedy shows, so I’ll give it that), but I don’t want to watch a show where I only get any enjoyable moments every other episode.

I also kind of wished this show focused a bit more on the whole being-a-witch thing. I felt it would’ve been pretty cool to have a slice-of-life series that slowly showed us its world of witches, especially since I feel like this show really could have some stuff to say about it. However, although there’s definitely been scenes and stories that involve Makoto’s status as a witch, I wish there was more, and I wish it went a bit deeper with those. That being said, with how episode 6 went, maybe this series will skew more in that direction in the latter half; however, I don’t think I’ll be sticking around to find out.

The Atmosphere

The animation of this series isn’t the most fluid either, and also detracts from the effectiveness of some of its jokes. It almost feels at times that they put some sequences at double speed or something, because they made too many frames for it. While I won’t say Flying Witch is terrible at comedic timing, it does have a lot of room to improve, especially if they’re visual gags.

Besides that, though, the art and animation of this show is pretty alright. When this show wants to show a beautiful scene, it can. While I’ve seen other shows with much better visuals, I can still appreciate some of the backgrounds featured in Flying Witch too. I’m not the biggest fan of these character designs, but they’re not terrible, and I appreciate the variety of outfits the animators/artists have the characters wear throughout the series.

When it comes to the coloring though, I again have to compare this show to Tanaka-kun and GJ Club. Both of them featured pretty bright colors that helped with the atmosphere of the show, and made it feel a bit more cheerful. Here, the colors just… aren’t. I’d say the colors seem a bit more realistic, but it also comes off as a bit duller, and just not really matching up with how this show wants to present itself.

About 6 episodes in, I can’t necessarily think of a single piece of background music that really stands out to me. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I really only remember a show’s background music if it stands out as unique or interesting, and Flying Witch, like most shows, doesn’t really do that here. I can’t say the background music is bad, but it does feel rather generic. The standard usage of pitched percussion, woodwinds, and the occasional guitar and piano is replicated here. I will say that it feels like they really quieted down the music whenever there was dialogue… like more than what is usual, I feel like.

There are scenes where there just isn’t any music though, and I feel they did that, thinking that the jokes and dialogue of a scene would be enough to cover it. However, because the jokes or dialogue failed to really elicit a reaction out of me, it made the scenes feel even emptier and a bit more awkward.

I grew to enjoy the opening theme more, as I watched through the show. It’s not a theme I’ll want to listen to much on its own, but I enjoyed it for this show. The opening animation is not bad, but I didn’t enjoy it very much. The dancing and singing characters at the latter portion of it, for some reason, just came off as weird to me. The ending song is not bad either, but I also can’t say I enjoyed it much. The ending animation is one of the places where the show put in some pretty nice-looking background art, even if the rest of it wasn’t all that spectacular.

I honestly don’t have too much of an issue with the voices used in this series, except one: Kei. I didn’t like the sound of his voice at all in episode 1, and I thought maybe I’d warm up to it as the series went on. After episode 6, though, I still don’t like his voice all that much. The role of Kei is seiyuu Shinsuke Sugawara’s first major role though; I can only hope he does better in future productions. Him as Kei, though, sounds like he had his nose plugged the entire time, and it just… didn’t sound right.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

I almost feel like I should’ve gotten some sort of lesson out of this series, whether it’s about trusting friends’ recommendations, or about what expectations I should have when going into a show, or something. Overall, though, this show was a no-go for me; I gave it 6 episodes, and while I may try to get through more of it at some point in the future, it wouldn’t be surprising if I never really touched it again. The comedy just didn’t work for me, and the characters all had the same personality… I feel like every positive thing I have to say about this show comes with a negative, if not more than one per.

I won’t say others should avoid this show, because it’s possible that someone else could really get something more out of this than I can. However, if someone asked me for a fun slice-of-life show, this wouldn’t be one I point them towards. If you’re really looking for something light-hearted and that features witches, I’d suggest you give Sabrina the Teenage Witch a try.

Rating: Bad
Recommendation: Give It a Shot
+++ had nice background visuals at times, a few amusing moments although they were few and far between, Chito was enjoyable enough and seemed like the only personable character
— many jokes did not land and received little enjoyment out of this series, Chinatsu, Kei’s voice